Profile: Blair Belford
My name is Blair Belford and I am a junior at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire. Although I go to boarding school in a small city in New England, I grew up in the bustling metropolis of New York City. As Manhattan has been my home for my entire life, it is easy to lose sight of the world outside of the skyscraper barriers. People don’t notice the rivers of trash and waste flooding into the East River, or that ocean temperature levels are rising at an alarming rate. In my younger days, I wouldn’t think too much of the gloves and balloons floating past my surfboard with the rolling waves of Atlantic Beach. I didn’t realize the magnitude of the entire beach being evacuated because of a medical waste leak, or syringes washing up on shore. Climate Change as a whole is a widely neglected issue that cannot be ignored. It is absolutely essential that we take action in pursuit of changing environmental laws, mitigating emission levels, cleaning our oceans, and fighting for global change. It is not easy to do so while so many people ignore climate change’s threats, so spreading awareness is additionally crucial alongside action.
When I went to boarding school, my lifestyle changed completely. Suddenly, I wasn’t in a bubble of taxi cabs, blinding street lights, and passing thousands of people every day. I was in a natural paradise. The skyscrapers turned into evergreen giants, the people turned into beavers, otters, and deer, and the streetlights became stars. I immediately joined EcoAction, one of the largest student led organizations on campus focused on environmental action and sustainability. Three years later, we have accomplished a lot, and are making progress in persuading the school board in achieving carbon neutrality. We have hosted three school wide competitions on a dorm and grade level, managing food waste, electricity, and materialism in the form of mail. We work to get rid of single use plastics in the dining hall, cafe, and school store. We have organized numerous climate strikes on and off campus and held countless fundraisers for nonprofits. That being said, there is still a lot of work to do on and off campus. This year was an eyeopener, as the library pond that students and faculty skate on frequently throughout the winter did not completely freeze. The consequences of climate change are becoming visible, and we are hoping that students will see this join us in the fight for carbon neutrality.
Outside of school, my central focus is marine conservation. I grew up in the ocean, surfing, swimming, and spending months at the beach. I have recently become enlightened, in a sense, and have become extremely concerned but inspired with rising garbage levels in the oceans of Long Island. I am outraged by the fact that so many people use the ocean as a trashcan and don’t realize the dangers and damage of pouring waste and garbage into the water. I have begun a beach cleanup project at the Cedarhurst Yacht Club in Lawrence, NY in the recent weeks because action is limited at the moment, but I plan to work with local organizations, such as the Rockaway Initiative for Sustainability and Equity in the future to take further action.
I have also become an ambassador for Global Leadership Adventures, an organization that leads trips for high school students in the goal of climate activism and conservation. Last summer, I traveled to the Yasawa Islands in Fiji for a two week program beginning in marine field research and reef surveys, then in the installation of an artificial reef system and mitigation of the Crown of Thorns Starfish overpopulation. In the second week, we moved from the water to the land, working in a local indigenous village. We began on the shore, doing beach clean ups and planting over 1500 mangroves. Then, we installed natural waste management systems at 24 homes and outlined a plan for maintaining reduced ocean pollution. Additionally, in summer of 2018, I traveled to the Galapagos Islands for a two week program in which we island hopped throughout the Galapagos, beginning our work in a Giant Tortoise habitat, where we cleared stumps, boulders, and roots, while digging pits for breeding. On the next island, we planted over 200 trees and cleared mass patches of debris.
Although I have recently joined the FXB Youth Climate Activist Program, I am extremely excited to work to fight climate change on a wider scale, and with a broader range of people. Obviously, action is needed right now and I am confident that as a group we can productively pursue change.